Alpine adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park

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As we drove up higher and higher I looked out and tried to not let my fear of heights wash over me. The trees were so regal and the cool air felt so good, and I tried to steel myself. My mother looked over nervously at me.

We were in Rocky Mountain National Park, up thousands of feet higher than the nearest town of Estes Park. We were driving the Trail Ridge Road and watching the landscape change as we climbed higher and higher. This was the park where my parents met and fell in love when they were in college and it felt very neat to be in their territory, where my mother and father used to rise at 4 am to get to the park to photograph bugling elk in the rising sunlight of autumn. Having parents who fell in love with each other because of their mutual love of the outdoors has its perks- you get to hear about cool stories like that one.

Up at the top of the road, we got out and hiked. At 11,000 feet, the air felt thinner, and we both had small headaches that would later bloom into larger ones due to the lesser amount of oxygen available up high. We were in the alpine region, where no trees grow, surrounded by delicate alpine flora and fat marmots who lazed on rocks posing like some weird animal Richard Burton. No doubt they were being fed by hapless idiots.

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On our way up some folks from Oklahoma stopped in the middle of the road, which is narrow and has little-to-no room for maneuvering, and proceeded to feet one of these fat marmots from the car and take pictures. My mother and I rolled our eyes and I wanted to get out, walk up to them, throw crumbs at them, and ask, “How do you like it?!”

Ahem…

Anyway. Being up so high was eerie in that you could see for what felt like miles. Miles of peaks, clouds, and valleys were all for the visually consuming, and I soaked it in. We saw a gorgeous bull elk in full, handsome velvet napping in a meadow, his red-gold head tucked into the flora. One man asked us if he was dead but we told him no, that elk nap and conserve energy and move about more in the evening and morning.

Eventually it was getting chilly, though thankfully without the strong winds that such areas are known for, and hopped into the car to go to a visitor’s center. We got to drink in even more spectacular views and then realized we were going to be late for dinner at my grandma’s house and left the park.

A too-brief glimpse into the incredible, fast-changing landscapes in that beautiful place.

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“How did you get my espresso machine?” (The Montana Folk Festival)

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If you haven’t watched “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” I highly recommend you make it a priority. Even though it got not-so-great ratings at the time, I find the film to be poignant, ridiculous, hilarious, and visually compelling in so many ways.

There is a building in Butte called the Hennessy Building. It is large, regal, grand, and recently restored. As we walked to it I told Logan we must go inside and steal an espresso machine, a nod to the film mentioned above. The annual Montana Folk Festival was in full swing around us, and we saw the streets full of warm bodies on a ridiculously hot day.

Usually Butte is a fairly cool place temperature (and other) wise. However, the town was so toasty that the asphalt on the streets was literally melting, so wheelbarrows full of sand were being carted around dutifully to keep people’s feet from sticking to the pavement. Nonetheless, thousands of people like ourselves reveled in the live music, delicious food stands, and people watching that Butte always affords. I saw old bikers, young hipsters, way too many infants without sound protection, and a general sampling of humanity.

The Montana Folk Festival this year brought us a marvelous Afro-Venezuelan group, Betsayda Machado y la Parranda del Clavo, to one of the stages. Venezuela is, pardon my language, a shit place to be right now, with triple-digit inflation, lack of basic medicines, and general upheaval, and as we listened to the amazing sounds of the group, I wondered what it was like back home, and how these musicians were doing, if they would return home to the awfulness, and what it must be like to be in an old mining town in Montana introducing us to their sounds. As we watched Logan told me the music reminded him of the music in Bahia, a northern state in Brazil, and he said that it felt “like home” with the heat, the sounds, and the colors.

Earlier that week as we listened to Montana Public Radio we got to hear the most amazing cover of “House of the Rising Sun” croon us as we made dinner. The musician in question who made this masterpiece was Doreen Ketchens, hailing from New Orleans, and we got to see her at the Folk Festival as well! She played the clarinet, her daughter played drums, and the music that rang around the old part of Butte from her stage gave me goosebumps, I swear! Something about the clarinet can make sounds that are eerie and tingling, and I loved hearing her play songs like “Minnie the Moocher” and other classics I had only heard from recordings decades old.

The heat ultimately defeated us, though. We took shelter in a few breweries and bars to escape the omnipresent film of sweat that covered us all. Butte’s bar scene is eclectic, and at one establishment the bartender sassed me aggressively for not ordering a double gin and tonic. “What is the point of being at the Folk Festival if you’re not getting folked up?!” he hissed at me, and I begged him to just give me a single, as I was not looking to be a plastered creature at 5pm. He finally gave in but I’m sure he thought I was pathetic- and definitely not from Butte, where drinking is a hyper-common hobby. The open-container law also allows residents to get drinks “to go” to enjoy as they go about their merry ways.

Overall, this year was a blast. Despite the heat and the sun and the swaths of people (and overpriced beer tickets- $5 for a tall boy of PBR is just a bit too much) I cannot say I regretted it one bit. We passed out later that evening thoroughly exhausted, and I was still humming Ms. Ketchen’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” at the end of it all.

Montana in the summer: A brief glimpse.

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Fishing, drinking local beer, hiking, noticing the little things: That’s what Montana summers are made of. (And scanning lots of film!)

I’ve been applying to jobs, finishing my thesis, and traveling a bit to see family in Colorado. We have been waging a battle against the heat with fans and windows thrown wide open at night, only to discover that the house still barely gets below 75 most days. Watering the grass seems silly when it’s almost 100F out and almost nothing will save the lawn, and our grass shrivels and roasts and looks less nice than the neighbors, but paying the water bill is a real thing.

The last few days have been spent outside in the sun and on the water and it has been marvelous. We spent two days in the northwestern part of the state and managed to get a full day of hiking and exploring in Glacier National Park. Logan and I got our second National Parks pass and I hope that we make it to Yellowstone this fall when the tourists leave and the leaves are quietly changing.

Plans, plans, plans. How is life so full of plans and yet almost none of them pan out? If you had told me six months ago that I would still be in Montana, I would have laughed. Yet, here we are, and to be honest I couldn’t be happier. Montana beckons and lures and cajoles my heart and soul and eyes (and camera lens!) unlike anywhere else.

 

Rhubarb pie

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My mother has a beautiful healthy rhubarb plant in her backyard. It’s grown from cuttings of a rhubarb plant that she had at our childhood home. The rhubarb that she grows is descended from a rhubarb plant that our family grew over one hundred years ago after my ancestors emigrated from Scotland to New Brunswick, and I love that it’s still growing in Montana and has been a part of our family.

Rhubarb is one of my favorite things to bake with and eat in general. It’s great in jams, in chutneys, in pies, crisps, tarts, and lots of other things. I even like eating thin slices raw- but that’s perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea.

This recipe is from one at AllRecipes, but I used less sugar:

4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 and 1/3 cups sugar (I used about 3/4 of a cup- I like my pies tart)

6 tablespoons white flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 recipe for two 9 inch crusts

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Roll out your first pie crust over flour and put in pie plate. Preheat oven at 450F. Mix together the flour and sugar until mixed well, then sprinkle about 1/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the crust. Then, heap your chopped rhubarb on top (isn’t it beautiful?!). Sprinkle the rest of the flour/sugar mixture over the rhubarb and dot with little pats of butter.

(If you’re feeling adventurous you can also mix a tiny bit of lemon juice in with your rhubarb! I meant to do this but forgot…)

Lay your other pie crust over the top and pinch the edges of the two crusts together. Poke holes with a fork in the top crust so that air can escape. Cover the edges of the crust with tin foil so that the crust doesn’t get over-cooked.

Put in oven at 450F for 15 minutes, then cook at 350 for another 40-45 minutes. Take out, let cool for a few hours, and enjoy!

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I like serving mine with ice cream or having it in the morning for breakfast with black coffee. A sweet and sour pie with a buttery crust is the best combination, in my opinion! What’s great about this pie is it’s amazing cold, which is perfect for summer when cold and tart things are ideal.

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San Francisco on film

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The colors were everywhere. Bits of coral, the blue of the sky, the warm hue of sand, the cool grey of the dense fog that engulfed Adrienne’s neighborhood each night. The smells were different- hot asphalt, whiffs of delicious foods not found in Montana, the sterile yet slight omnipresent stink of public transit, of thousands of bodies inhabiting the same small train cars day in and day out. San Francisco felt like a city that was in the midst of a lot of change. Money and youth everywhere, and yet none of it to be found for many.

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We walked through the park, surrounded by massive eucalyptus trees, before breakfast. Logan took a picture of poop in the park with my film camera because he said I was being stingy with my film. We smelled the rich earth and the flora and saw red wing blackbirds and ravens before making our way to the beach.

The beach was engulfed in fog that was slowly retreating, and we walked to meet the waves, letting the edges of the Pacific ocean lap at our feet. The sand felt good in between my toes and I watched as one man in a dark coat walked up and over one of the dunes. The beach felt melancholy and full of gloom, but I loved it. Such spaces are great for letting thoughts wander and unravel and then pulling them back to have new, strange, and better ideas and thoughts.

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We went to the Mission District, which Adrienne had warned us was quickly becoming gentrified. Historically Latinx and Hispanic families have lived there, but as we got off BART we saw the inevitable results of gentrification. We walked a lot around that area and still heard plenty of Spanish, saw groups of school children and church groups outside churches with signs that read, “Jesus te ama”, and I hoped that the people who had been there would hold onto their apartments and stores and churches and habits, but I quietly knew that money and white people were probably sinking their teeth into the area and biting away at what hadn’t been theirs before.

In in the midst of our Mission ventures we found a beautiful, cramped Italian market. One wall was entirely devoted to hanging sausages and I felt myself growing hungry even though we had eaten quite recently. A beautiful wheel of Parmesan cheese sat staring at me and Logan pointed out some meats he had been searching for. We looked at the olive oils and the cans of tomatoes and all the pasta and left because if we didn’t leave soon we would buy meats and cheese that we had no room in our luggage for. We found a Brazilian mercado, and once inside I was the only one who wasn’t speaking Portuguese. People sipped coffee and around us were baskets full of Brazilian cooking ingredients, juices, and random odds and ends like deodorant or romance novels. Logan chatted with the barista and we left to go find a cool place to linger. We ended up at a dive bar with the right amount of sticky counters, grimy interiors, and dark corners and sat down. Adrienne joined us shortly after, and we talked and people watched.

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The rest of our trip was like that- full of lovely places but being quietly reminded that this was a city being inundated with money from tech firms and start ups and that things were shifting and maybe had been for a while. Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed being able to see and do the things only cities can give you- art, diversity, busy crowds and the kaleidoscope of humanity that buzzes and bustles as each one of us carves out our own space in the world in whatever way we can.

The stuff dreams are made of

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San Francisco was busy, busy, busy. We got there over Pride Weekend and got to see the city in full celebration. We walked miles every day, ate amazing food, took MUNI and BART everywhere, and drank green tea smoothies in Chinatown while we tried to escape the heat. 35549259335_4fa04125fb_c35549260115_b21817f384_c34740464803_4894c8ed61_c35549260405_19c15f03ba_c35549260725_3d315156bb_c

We went to SFMOMA and saw Munch, Brancusi, Matisse, Calder, and many other modern art makers. It was marvelous to walk the halls and see Diego Riviera paintings and little Matisse landscapes close together.

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We stayed with Adrienne, whose penchant for art, travel, and food all made our visit even more wonderful! Going over old memories in the back of a Lyft or quietly chatting in front of a Munch painting about the past, about our futures, about nothing at all. It really is a beautiful thing to spend time with people from your past and see the both of you change and grow and become marvelous souls in your own rights.

Saturday night Logan and I perched on the cement seats at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and watched Nick Cave, that master of all things dark and deep, play, and I cried multiple times and reveled in that man’s ability to pluck sudden, intense emotions and reactions seemingly out of thin air. His voice was incredible, deep and sinuous and full of things I can’t verbalize or type effectively. I had salt on my face from my tears when we left and as the fog consumed everything around us in the amphitheater I felt so alive.

Edvard Munch @ SFMOMA

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Y’all, over our brief 3 day sojourn to San Francisco we got to see the opening of an Edvard Munch show.

It left me speechless for a few reasons.

First, America rarely gets to see Munch’s work in person. Most are in Oslo in the Munch Museum, and most others are scattered around Europe. I went to New York  in 2013 and saw one version of The Scream there but other than that I have not seen many Munch paintings.

The exhibit was bare except for his canvasses. You could tell many had never been framed as the frames were new and showed the edges of the canvas. The edges were beautiful, just as beautiful as the paint filled middles, because you could see the nails and the ends of the paint and the work felt more human.

Logan said that Munch felt like Renoir on ether, and Adrienne and I both looked at how he painted women- as muses, sexual objects, creatures who reviled Munch, as temptresses and devils. It was agreed that Munch was, in many ways in his later years, a dirty old man.

But a damn talented one. His use of color and his skill with layers and washes were incredible. I felt full as I looked at his depictions of himself, of death, of isolation and lost love. Munch clearly had a powerful imagination that often threatened to swallow him entirely, as he depicted himself in Hell and being watched by eerie masks. We did loops, seeing new things at each turn in front of different canvasses. We sat in front of some and got closer to others. I felt my mind turning to a dirty, poor, unsophisticated Oslo where Munch grew up and wondering about who this man was.

It was a fantastic opportunity for us Americans to see the work of somebody who so clearly had a different mindset, set of motivations, morals, and ideas. It was, though this is difficult to accurately explain, very obvious that these works were by a brooding Norwegian.

Come Sail Your Ships Around Me

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The older gentleman who develops my film cuts it for me and I take it home to hum through my scanner. As the images appear, slowly, I fall back into memory. Film is delayed gratification, a slowly opened gift, a practice in patience and deliberate moves.

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As you read this Logan and I are packing to go to San Francisco, where we will be seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds! Logan got the tickets as our Christmas present in December, and we weren’t sure if we would be able to go for a long time, but in the end the chance to see Nick Cave live was too damn good.

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We’ve never been to San Francisco, and I cannot wait to see Adrienne and explore a new city for a few days!

In any case, here is some film from the last 3 weeks. Sunshine, gloom, bandaged hands from fishing at 4am, old grumpy fishermen, canoeing on the lake, and other delightful moments and things.

Adventuring

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We went fishing but didn’t fish.

We drove down the paved road, which eventually turned to dirt. We passed wide, flat fields fenced in by dense copses of trees. The river sang to us no matter where we were, and we followed the road and peered down at the swollen, runoff filled body of water. It looked cold, it looked rich, it looked unwelcoming, but it was so beautiful.

When spring ends and summer begins in Montana is a matter of debate and is ultimately up to fickle Mother Nature- and she changes her mind a lot. The last few weeks have been a mix of chilly, sweater-clad days and days where I am sweating on our front porch and loathing everything. We leave sweaters in our cars just in case, but also tubes of sunscreen.

We eventually found this suspension bridge and crossed it, heading into a wilderness area. We didn’t go very far, as darkness and rain were fast coming, and I sat by the edge of the river on a rock, thinking those fast fleeting thoughts that I find myself surrounded by when confronted with the natural.

We’re going back soon, hopefully to have more of a hike and explore some of our new national forests!

The Void (Musings on looking for jobs)

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The other day I went to get a bite with a friend. Then she asked me what I really wanted to be doing with my life as we were eating and I paused. What did I really want? Well damn girl, slow down. Don’t be getting me optimistic about things! I said, I really want to be writing and photographing and making money from it. I want to be telling stories and bringing humanity into a world that sometimes seems in dire need of it. 

As I apply for jobs I feel so unsure of how to communicate who I am/why I am worthwhile on a single sheet of paper. I am highly capable, competitive, and enthusiastic. I am, underneath it all, an optimist. I feel so full of potential and ambition and energy it seems hard to channel it effectively sometiems. But, I’m also feeling very wary of The Void. The Void is where you send all your job applications these days. The Void is that online application portal that your potential (fingers crossed!!!) future employer uses, and it is to The Void that you upload a resume (.docx or .pdf preferred), your cover letter, and whatever else you think The Void needs to potentially see you as a viable candidate to be paid for what labor they want you to do.

The Void is sterile, inhumane, and prone to creating senses of doubt, negativity, and cynicism. The Void may never get back to you, it may never even send you an email that it got your application. The Void consumes hours of your time and effort and may not yield you anything. If I were in agriculture and The Void was an acre of land I wouldn’t be planting anything there, but these are desperate, Void-necessary times.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know somebody with blood in their veins and a brain in their skull pulls the information I’ve send to The Void and that a human being or two actually peruses some if not most of the applications. Regardless, it is disheartening to submit so much and often never hear a peep back. No feedback, no reasoning about why I wasn’t the right fit, just the consuming, stressful, omnipresent SILENCE that The Void echoes. It doesn’t make my applications better. It doesn’t strengthen my resolve. It doesn’t make me a better resume writer.  I know that employers are likely inundated with applications, that lots of places don’t have the staff to respond to applicants like that, but the cold face of the Internet can be a bit trying sometimes. So, that means I have to work harder to keep my chin up and know that it will, eventually, work out. We all have to, don’t we?

P.S. Send me good thoughts as I look for work. Please. Now back to editing that one cover letter…

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Two Years

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Amsterdam, two years ago.

Two years ago Emily and I were eating apples and going to the Rijksmuseum and seeing MisterWives at Paradiso. I wrote directions to the venue on my upper thigh so we wouldn’t have to bring our phones and we stuffed our cash in our bras and shoes. We found out that the Dutch don’t party on Saturday nights like I thought they would. We were told by some family friends that Amsterdamers prefer to go out on Wednesday or Sunday nights, oddly.

We stayed in the apartment of a family friend close to the Albert Cuyp market and got sushi to go on a rainy evening. We spend time in the Hortus Botanicus and the Artis and ate delicious Indonesian and Vietnamese food. We had proper dim sum for the first time in our lives and I had a love affair with some duck crepe thing and a shrimp dumpling.  I lost close to ten pounds just being on my feet all day every day seeing what this old, vibrant city had to offer, and it was so refreshing to be in the motherland in a place where our long, strange last name was perfectly reasonable, even if Dutch still sounds so strange to my Anglo ears.

I cannot wait to go back someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Autonomy

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What does home mean anymore?

Is home a physical location? Is it the people I love? Is it a hybrid of both, mixed with some nostalgia and memories? I haven’t lived in any one place since I was 18 for more than two or three years at a time, so home for me doesn’t necessarily mean a geographical location. I am a Montanan with a fierce love for my enormous, multi-faceted state, but I’m also a creature who has inhabited the mountains and valleys of Switzerland and the green, lush south part of Vancouver Island. Home for me is definitely when I’m with the people who light me up, but my relationship with the land is strong.

Part of this is because I’ve been alone much of the time. Not lonely. Alone. There is a big difference, and I think that learning to be alone, truly alone, and find peace in that is absolutely necessary. We often live in a weird state of semi-connected isolation in our technology tethered society, but I think that as human beings it is vital to be able to find yourself totally solo and not be bothered. I find that some of the most pure memories I have are when I was alone, whether it was on an early morning walk around Paradiso or sitting on a rock listening to the waves, looking into the ocean. I am alone with the earth and with everything around me. Savoring the taste of a good latte with a book in my favorite coffee shops or seeing “The Scream” at The Met and crying quietly in front of it. These are not happy moments in the sense of joy or exhilaration, but they are serene, smooth, and utterly mine. They were created by me, for me, and I allowed myself to be okay with the fact that there was nobody to rest my head on, to look over and smile at, and that feeling of being alone is terrifying but so good.

We live in a world of wage stagnation, nutter politicans, and dreadful news 24/7. We live in a world where technology defines relationships, where not having internet can feel like a death sentence. We are surrounded by media screaming at us that we are not enough, that we could be better. In such a vicious, often callous world, the ability to go away on a walk or sit and have a meal alone in a restaurant or even just look out the window and (not to be morbid but) we will die alone, and in between we will spend much of our lives being alone. This is not a bad thing but a reality we must face and I and many people I deeply love and respect have chosen to not fight it and find peace and serenity in our autonomy and the human experience of existence.

Provincetown and points of view.

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I asked Logan what “Lagosta na Panela” meant after I saw the tiled sign outside of the Lobster Pot in Provincetown. “It means lobster in the pot”, he said over the phone and I laughed. Of course it does. 

Provincetown is a centuries old whaling town with a historic Portuguese presence that turned into an artist and gay colony. The town is saturated with gorgeous old architecture, vivacious townspeople, and a wealth of galleries, restaurants, and beachfront to visually and otherwise consume. You can walk down the “Widow’s Row” which is full of old ship captain’s homes, with windows so that the wives could watch for their husband’s ships to come in- or never come back. Colorful buildings, shingled Cape homes, and lots of old New England history abounds there. I forgot how much I love that weird little town, where drag queens make a living alongside literary celebrities, and where one day it can be gorgeous and sunny and the next rainy and miserable. Oysters and good gin are always called for, but so is Spiritus Pizza, a local pizza joint that serves up delicious pressed apple juice alongside large, floppy slices.

To me, though, Provincetown is also just a place to get lost. It’s a magnificent town to people watch in. I wish I could someday spend a week with my camera and just sit on various benches and photograph the diverse humans that weave their way in and out of Commercial Street as they hunt for a new painting, a place to eat, or perhaps somewhere to just get away from the crowds. When I am there I try to get up early and see the town before it is full of souls, and there is nothing better than

On one rainy afternoon with Exa and Emily, we walked into a little store and browsed. The owner of the store immediately broke into conversation about what we were looking at, and asked us where we were from. We chatted about lots of little things, and it felt really lovely to do so. The same thing happened earlier in the shop where I bought my beautiful blue woodblock printed dress, and again in another store. Provincetown is full of people who have fascinating stories and pasts and are more than willing to engage and share those pasts. I love humans- all of us are a unique sum of all our experiences, both good and bad, and none of us are the same. We all have to survive, thrive, and suffer together and being able to touch on people’s humanness and chat about books, about their store, or about what adventures and activities we were up to felt wonderful in a small, satisfying, the world isn’t so bad way. If that sounds hokey, that’s alright, but I’ll be the sappy optimist over the grumpy cynic that I worry I am becoming any day.

Feelin’ myself

34168114064_bce4cb23a4_c34168112094_9115f34b20_c34971988586_8c613bf9fe_c34168098654_e8d4b45142_c34168105784_bd46863abc_c34168097164_b4fc3def74_c34848222042_1694f8f7b2_c34971987416_0e2e825b74_cI sit in leggings on a couch back home in Montana, editing photographs and making a mental to-do list. There are plants to bring to our new home in Missoula. There is a job, somewhere, that I need to apply to and get so that I can have money, save to pay down student debts, buy new tires for my ancient car, and go camping with Logan. The sun is shining and I am feeling very vulnerable being unemployed, but it’s a beautiful day.

To combat negativity and bad thoughts that inevitably come as one looks for work, here is some evidence that one beautiful sunny day in Cape Cod I spent some time on the beach with my sister in a dress that fits my personality perfectly (even though my mum referred to it as “A bit Laura Ingalls Wilder”).